The Braves take the series 2 games to 1, and record their 5th win in 6 games. They stand at 57 – 55, 2 games behind the Phillies, and .5 games ahead of the Mets.
The Nationals opened the scoring in the top of the 3rd, starting when Luis Garcia singled, and Max Fried walked pitcher Patrick Corbin. Corbin was forced at 2nd on the old 3-1-4 force out when Austin Riley‘s diving attempt at fielding a Victor Robles bunt ricocheted back to Max. Garcia advanced to 3rd on the play however, and scored on an Alcides Escobar single. That was the only run Max would allow, battling through 6 innings on 105 pitches. He allowed 7 hits and a walk, along with 5 strikeouts.
The Braves struck back in the bottom of the 3rd to take the lead. Fried hit a 2-out single, and Ozzie Albies followed with his 18th home run. Albies went 1 – 3 with a walk out of the leadoff spot. Fried is now batting .324.
The Braves extended the lead with 2 out in the 6th. Riley’s opposite field double scored Dansby Swanson from 1st, and Adam Duvall followed with his 24th homer of the season. A Duvall single in the 4th gave him 2 hits on the day and broke a 5 consecutive strikeout streak. Adam is like a slot machine – you have to put a lot of quarters in before you get a jackpot, but you can’t walk away from it.
The bullpen would need every bit of that 5 – 1 lead. Jesse Chavez came on to pitch the 7th, and could not get through it. He gave up 3 hits and 2 runs before yielding to Richard Rodriguez to record the final out. Rodriguez stayed on to pitch an uneventful 8th, walking 1, and striking out pinch hitter Juan Soto looking.
Will Smith got the day off after pitching 3 of the last 4 days and yielding his 1st earned runs since July 10th. Chris Martin was called upon for the save, and got it, despite allowing a run on consecutive 2 out doubles by Escobar and Ryan Zimmerman.
Bullpens are volatile and small sample traps when one thinks one has them figured out. The truth is somewhere in between as bad as we thought, and as good as we thought, but it’s clear the Braves don’t have a lockdown reliever. Smith has a 1.12 WHIP and 10.7 K/9 innings, but has allowed 5 homers in 44 2/3 innings. Martin has a 6.3 K/9 rate. Rodriguez is 31 years old, and has been entrusted to amass 19 career saves. Tyler Matzek was dead and buried 3 weeks ago; which do you trust? Chavez has been good, but he’s only pitched 16 1/3 innings. Luke Jackson is Luke Jackson. This is an imperfect team with a decent chance of winning an imperfect division.
One more bullpen note. Shane Greene has pitched 1 inning in the last 12 days; Josh Tomlin has thrown 2. It could not be more clear that this team could drop a reliever and add a bench bat, or even 2. (It doesn’t have to be 1 of those 2 guys, but it ought to be somebody.) In addition to adding a bench bat, this has the bonus of ensuring that our 14th best pitcher never comes in to a game.
Freddie Freeman came on in the 7th in a double switch, and should be recovered and ready to help the Braves try to stay hot when the Reds come to town on Tuesday. Drew Smyly
and Jon Gray and Sonny Gray scheduled at 7:20.